What You Can Do to Help the Elderly During Cold Weather

affordable home care assisted home care at home caregivers taking care of elderly parents senior home assistance senior companion care senior citizen care respite for caregivers private pay home care care for older people companion home care home care services for seniorsI’ve had enough of Mother Nature’s winter wrath this year!  I’ve been fortunate to make it to work without a flat tire, without my car stalling, and without being involved in a rollover caused by black ice.  I haven’t slipped on the ice either (yet, anyway).  And even though I certainly could go out in the evening, I’m making a conscious choice not to.  Can you tell I’m getting older myself?  It got me thinking about elderly people and how this extreme cold weather makes them even more isolated and vulnerable than normal.

There are always health and well-being concerns with those elderly who choose to live alone in their own homes or apartments.  When the weather gets this cold for this long, there are additional concerns.  As help for senior caregivers, here are a few cold-weather concerns to keep in mind:


1.  Is there adequate heat?  If I know anything from working with the elderly, it’s how resourceful and resilient they can be.  After all, many of them lived through the Depression.  I’ve been in places where I’ve found elderly people sitting in front of their cranked up ovens trying to stay warm.  However, using a gas oven as a long-term heating source is dangerous and could create more problems, such as carbon monoxide poisoning.

Most of the time the heat is down because they fear they don’t have enough money to have it set any higher.  Sometimes they don’t know how to operate “new fangled” thermostats!  To help keep their homes warm, help them to close off unused rooms and remind them to dress more warmly, drink hot fluids, or maybe stay with someone who has heat until a cold spell passes.

It’s also important to know that there are some financial assistance programs to help with paying for energy costs.  Many elderly living on fixed incomes qualify for these programs.  Minnesota residents can call the Senior Linkage Line at 1-800-333-2433 to find out about energy assistance for seniors in a specific city.

elder care in Minnesota eldercare at home elderly home assistance elderly home care service help for senior caregivers home care companies home care in Minnesota in home care Minneapolis non medical senior care2.  Is there food for adequate nutrition?  In talking with an elderly person recently, I found out that because of the cold and snow, she had not been out to get groceries for a while—the basics like milk, fresh fruit, and bread.  She was eating up the canned goods from her pantry, which was getting her by but certainly was not providing the good nutrition that fresh food provides.  A good idea is to call your elderly parents or neighbors when you’re making a trip to the store and ask if they need anything.  This would also be a good time to discuss home-delivered meals or just to stop over with a hot meal.  For Minnesota residents, the Senior Linkage Line (1-800-333-2433) is a great resource for seniors who may need information about food programs in their area.

3.  Do they have necessary medications?  Some medications are absolutely necessary, and some are not.  Perhaps a call to the physician can clarify which medications your elderly parents can go without until they are again able to get out for refills.  Can they call their neighbors and ask them to pick up medications for them?  People are often very willing to help if they know what to do.  Will the pharmacy deliver?  If you live close by to an elderly person, it would be helpful to make a call to ask what, if anything, is needed?

private pay homke care senior citizen care senior companion care senior home assistance taking care of elderly parents affordable home care assisted home care at home caregivers care for older people companion home care eldercare at home elder care in Minnesota4.  What about some social time? Not all needs are physical.  Social needs are extremely important too!  Some elderly people get lonely sitting day after day in front of the television with no human contact.  Use the telephone to check in.  Better yet, make a visit.  If you have children, bring them along!  Your children would enjoy hearing stories about winters in the “old days,” and elderly people love to tell about their experiences.  Sitting with a cup of hot cocoa or tea and a treat might just be a shot in the arm for everyone involved!  An in-person visit will allow you to survey the situation about other needs the person may have.

Also, don’t be afraid to ask about spiritual needs.  Many elderly folks don’t get to church as often as they would like, even less so in winter weather, so perhaps a visit by a clergy person is in order.  Suggest they make a call to their church or even offer to make the call yourself.

Whether you are taking care of elderly parents or are in a position to care for older people in your neighborhood, there are little things you can do to make sure they can weather the winter cold.  In short, make yourself available.  Be a good neighbor!  Common sense will tell you what is needed.

Be safe; be warm!

Julie Ellingson, LSW

January 29, 2014



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